With his sights set on snapping the Flyers’ two-game skid, interim coach Mike Yeo got the band back together.
For the first time since Nov. 10, the second line of center Derick Brassard, right winger Cam Atkinson, and left winger Joel Farabee reunited, combining for three goals in the Flyers’ 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.
As center Kevin Hayes returned to the lineup, Yeo reshuffled the forward lines and reunited the “FAB” trio of Farabee, Atkinson, Brassard, who had success together during the first 10 games of the season.
“It’s just like the playmaking game of Farabee and the finish of Atkinson,” Brassard said. “I think it’s a good line. And tonight we came out big for the team. We scored some key goals at some key moments in the game, and those two guys were buzzing around.”
Brassard’s early third-period goal tied the game at 3-3 and gave life to the Flyers’ offensive attack, which went stagnant in the second period. Five minutes after Brassard’s goal, Atkinson scored his second of the game through traffic, eluding goalie Kevin Lankinen for the game-winning tally.
The matchup featured plenty of physicality on both sides as the game devolved into scrums after goals and whistles. But after relinquishing a late lead to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, the Flyers closed out against the Blackhawks and broke their losing streak for their first win of the month.
“It’s amazing when guys stick up for each other,” Atkinson said. “Kind of brings everyone into the fight. That’s what good teams do is when they support each other and stick up for each other, good things will usually happen.”
This season, the Flyers have fared well when scoring the first goal of the game (13-4-6) and have only won three times when they haven’t. From the drop of the puck, the Flyers sought to impose their game upon the Blackhawks and successfully did so for the majority of the period. For the first 15 minutes of the first period, the Flyers spent most of their time on the attack.
Less than five minutes into the first period, winger Oskar Lindblom put the Flyers on the board first. Defenseman Travis Sanheim fired a shot from the blue line and Lindblom deflected the puck past Lankinen to put the Flyers up, 1-0. The Flyers managed to maintain their lead by the end of the first 20 minutes even when the Blackhawks generated sustained offensive zone time in the last five minutes. Martin Jones made a diving save to avoid a backdoor goal at the buzzer.
“The last game, that was an embarrassment for everyone,” Atkinson said. “Myself included. And to do it in front of our fans, that shouldn’t happen. So we wanted to come out strong.”
Good feelings fizzled in the second
Twenty-four seconds into the second period, center Jonathan Toews won an offensive-zone draw and kicked a pass back for winger Alex DeBrincat, who beat Jones over his blocker to tie the game at 1.
Dylan Strome scored 12 minutes later to put the Blackhawks on top, 2-1, but Atkinson quickly tied the game three minutes later with a backdoor goal off a feed from Farabee. A scrum broke out following Atkinson’s goal, which lead to a Flyers power play. However, shortly after the Blackhawks’ roughing penalty expired, Strome scored again off of a takeaway to put the Blackhawks up, 3-2.
Paltry power play, mighty penalty kill
Going into Saturday’s game, the Flyers ranked 30th (14.2% success rate) in the league on the power play overall and 31st when playing at home (13.8%). The Flyers earned four opportunities on the man-advantage against the Blackhawks, who boast one of the league’s worst penalty-kill units (28th overall, 30th on the road).
The Flyers generated some scoring chances on their first two power plays, especially from the second unit of Brassard, Hayes, Travis Konecny, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Ivan Provorov. However, the Flyers didn’t manage a single shot on goal during their third power play and were held scoreless on all four attempts. However, the Flyers had a resounding penalty kill late in the third period, stifling the Blackhawks as they sought to tie the game and holding them to one shot on goal.
“It would’ve been real easy just to pack it in and just hope something happens,” Farabee said. “But to go out there and get a win in the third at home I think is really big for us and gives us a lot of confidence.”
The Flyers conclude their eight-game homestand on Tuesday when they take on the Vegas Golden Knights at 7 p.m.